The Mogster redeems BBC’s Question Time

In the last programme of 2015, Jacob Rees-Mogg – aka ‘The Mogster’ redeemed BBC TV’s Question Time from its depths of political banality, and panellist incivility.

I’d all but given up on Question Time, due to the preponderance of politically unbalanced audiences, and rubbish panellists. I watched this edition because the Mogster was on the panel, believing there’d be at least one person exhibiting erudition, intellect, honesty, courtesy, and fun. Oh, and I guess Piers Morgan might’ve been a draw with the range of his opinions, along with his insufferable ego.

This is just as it turned out. Jacob Rees-Mogg answered the audience’s questions. No waffling around and having to be reminded by David Dimbleby to answer the question. The Mogster answered each question. Just what a programme called Question Time needs – panellists to answer questions. Just see his wonderful put-down of Dimbleby.

The other panellists, one from the SNP and one from UKIP, answered everything through the prism of either Scottish independence or freedom from the EU.

The other panellist was Labour’s Emily Thornberry, aka Lady Nugee, who persisted in avoiding answering questions.

Last night’s BBC Question Time – dire, Andrew Neil’s This Week – heroic

I hope I’m in the majority when I say that last night’s BBC flagship audience participation current affairs programme Question Time was absolutely dire. I frequently turned away to do more interesting stuff than listen to fractious arguments, and much spouting of platitudinous rubbish.

What a delight to be greeted by Andrew Neil’s magnificent verbal blast against the perpetrators of the Paris atrocities. In fact the whole of the This Week programme was splendid, gosh, even George Galloway was reasonable – memorably saying he’d be happy to shoot any of the Parisian jihadists. Here’s Andrew’s terrific verbal bashing of IS,

MP’s being in touch with voters, it’s all a matter of balance

How some politicians exhibit being in touch with the lives of their electors, while others do not, is all a matter of balance between being in or out of touch. Perception is all here particularly by the electorate.

I don’t believe that, generally, electors expect politicians to be completely in touch with every aspect of their lives. It’s more a matter of being in touch with the values of the common man. Being ‘in touch’ is a phrase heavily used by Ed Miliband against David Cameron. Probably not for much longer, methinks.

Out of touchness is perfectly exemplified by the Emily Thornberry views of the ordinary elector, as revealed by her ill considered tweet, and expressed view about seeing a house with numerous St George flags, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it before’.

I’ve seen Emily Thornberry on TV political programmes, like Question Time, and not known anything more about her. Trust the press to investigate. Properly known as Lady Nugee, wife of barrister Sir Christopher Nugee, she lives in £3million mansion in Islington. You can read more about her HERE.

As Hazel Blears has said, “People right across the spectrum do feel that politicians who have never done a different job [other than as a career politician] somehow cannot be in touch with their lives.” She is further reported in the Daily Telegraph saying,

Mrs Blears said the public wanted MPs to live in their constituencies, and be seen to use the same shops and buses to show they are in touch with reality and not locked in the Westminster “bubble”.

While this isn’t entirely practical for every constituency, I agree that an MP should have a residence in their constituency. An example of an in touch politician would be Simon Danczuk, he of the councillor wife given to amusing ‘selfies’, who said in the MailOnline:

“Everyone will know exactly what she meant by that comment. I think she was being derogatory and dismissive of the people. We all know what she was trying to imply.

I’ve talked about this previously. It’s like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view. I want to see more people flying the British flag.”

As I say, it’s all a matter of balance. Get it wrong and damnation follows.

The Agenda v Question Time

I’ve seen ITV’s topical news chat show, The Agenda with Tom Bradby, a few times now, including last night’s edition, and am pleasantly impressed.

It’s a more mature format than the BBC’s Question Time. Being less adversarial, attracting higher quality guests, being shorter, and as a result is more enjoyable and informative. There’s still an audience, only in this format they don’t get to ask questions.

It appears at a similar time to BBC’s Question Time, after 10.30pm. Oh, and I prefer Tom Bradby’s style to David Dimbleby’s.

I agree with Simon Kellner’s view that the BBC’s Question Time debates are no longer illuminating.

Question Time analysis: correction

I consider myself rightly lightly chastised for drawing conclusions based on viewing so little of last weeks’ Question Time TV programme. While not changing some of my comments, it seems listening to just one lengthy response from LibDem MP and government minister, Jeremy Browne, wasn’t enough to form a rounded opinion. Must be more careful in future.

Question Time analysis: BBC finally gets it

Only caught the last 15 minutes of the BBC Question Time programme from Sheffield, so conclusions aren’t therefore fully formed.

At last the BBC understands the change in the political landscape with the arrival of a governing coalition. To which extent they’re now happy to pitch an influential coalition backbench MP against a front bench coalition minister, from either party in the coalition. Around this pairing they can add the opinion from Labour and other sources.

Government ministers who happen to be LibDems are performing unexpectedly strongly on Question Time. Maybe, its being in power that’s given them that lift. Whatever reason, they are impressing, as did, new to me, Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne.

Finally, Jack Straw’s halting delivery and barrister-like answers are just as irritating to me now as they were when he was in office.

Question Time analysis: a humdinger last night

The last time I blogged about the BBC’s Question Time programme I suggested it might be a useless blood sport. I’d even giving up watching the programme.

Last night I gave it another chance. I’m glad I did for it was a real humdinger of a show. Plenty of sharp and forthright exchanges.

I reckon it’s taken the programme’s producers a while to understand how to get the balance correct since the formation of the government coalition. I don’t imagine they’ll be always quite as lucky as last night in the mix of opinions.

Anyway, to the analysis. The panel members were Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; Coalition Employment Minister Ed Davey; Shadow Justice Minister Chris Bryant; hedge fund manager Hugh Hendry; and the historian Simon Schama.

David Dimbleby’s contribution was less in evidence this week. But when it was, it was first-rate, especially in keeping Nicola Sturgeon off the topic of Scottish independence. A notable scalp here when he said, “Don’t just address Scotland”.

The Glasgow audience seemed a fair-minded bunch, which is not always the case in Question Time audiences, making me think that they’re working harder on audience selection.

As to the relative performances of the panel. Simon Schama’s always good value, and was especially perceptive when talking about the EU, saying, ” the culture of complacency prevailing in Brussels is profoundly irritating”.

Denying Nicola Sturgeon the chance to talk about everything from a purely Scottish perspective made contribution ineffective, and a good thing too.

Chris Bryant is the exemplar of all that’s wrong with Labour, no apology for the mess we’re in, and seeming to claim the recovery is down to Labour’s failed policies.

Ed Davey; I’ve not seen much of him since he’s become a government minister. He’s a strong advocate for the coalition’s policies, and a punchy performer.

Hugh Hendry; what a find.  The undoubted star of the show. Just after Nicola Sturgeon began to talk about the SNP gaining control of the ‘levers of fiscal power’ of the Scottish economy, he said, “The annoyance I have is that Nicola ain’t gonna employ your kids. I might. She ain’t. These fiscal levers .. this nonsense”.

Nicola Sturgeon interrupts bringing this rejoinder from Hugh Hendry, “I know what I’m talking about Nicola”.

Brilliant stuff. You can watch it again on iPlayer.

No time for levity: spending cuts essential

We’re in serious times as we address the need to rebalance our economy. I could witter on my own account, but this brief note by Damian Reece, the Daily Telegraph’s head of business, in today’s paper tells us of the seriousness of our national situation,

“UK has no time to delay on spending reform

Ken Clarke fears we’re on the verge of “financial collapse”. That’s probably what it feels like in the public sector as several years of cuts loom.

Calamity is the word I’d use, rather than collapse, if we don’t reform public spending as promised by the Coalition. But the Justice Secretary is right to sound a warning. The economy is dangerously unbalanced, relying on the never-never for spending we can’t afford.

It would be wonderful if we could go slower on deficit reduction but time is another luxury we can’t afford any more. Delay simply hits market confidence, raises interest rates and turns the inflationary pumps to full.”

I watched the BBC’s Question Time last night, and admit to being surprised at the number in the audience seeming to deny the need for spending cuts. The country is on the brink of greatness or disaster. Fudge the spending cuts and it’s doom for us all. Get the changes right and we’ll be a model for 21st century mature western democracies, with greater public transparency, and a leaner public sector. 

Question Time analysis: a useless blood sport?

I’ve pondered whether it’s time to bin the BBC’s Question Time programme in its current form. I said then that “the format does not work when the country has a coalition government and is in the midst of an economic emergency”. Big national issues need intelligent discussion, not to be treated as a point scoring blood sport.

Last night’s programme was again a humourless affair, shedding no light on any topic.

I’m wondering whether a change of presenter might make the difference. I get the impression that David Dimbleby sees himself as some grand inquisitor, trying to draw blood from sharp jabs of questions. In this he’s aided and abetted by producers whose aim seems to be to create unbalanced panels where the most strident opinion is favoured over the most thoughtful.

What were the delights we were offered last night? There was George Galloway, no longer an MP, with views at the very margins of our society; Sally Bercow, famous, or is it infamous, for the verbal dribble she commits to Twitter, and who happens to be the wife of the supposedly impartial Speaker of the House of Commons; Francis Maude, a rather earnest government minister with the rest of the panel likely to be against him; Andy Burnham, a failed Labour minister seeking to justify his recent political judgements and to promote himself as the new leader of the Labour Party – enough of elections, pleeeeease, and finally Nick Ferrari, a talk show radio host given to offering pithy and populist opinion.

Where, oh, where was the thoughtful discussion? I rest my case.

Not many laughs on Question Time

The BBC’s Question Time programme is often a joyless affair. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t serious questions than need serious answers, but a touch of humour wouldn’t go amiss. The programme needs people with the ability of Boris Johnson, who can find the balance between the two.

Maybe this was the reason that Ed Byrne was added to the panel for last week’s Question Time from Edinburgh. It certainly wasn’t successful, he was dire. There wasn’t the vaguest hint of lightness of touch from anyone on the panel, consisting of Conservative peer Lord Forsyth, shadow International Development secretary Douglas Alexander, Lib Dem MP and Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore, the Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and Irish comedian Ed Byrne.

There’s another point I’d like to make, and in this I’m not looking to offend here. It’s that political discussions involving Scottish panelists, or questions about Scotland are predominately grumpy and inward looking. I agree with Neil O’Brien in the Daily Telegraph, when he says the Scottish “political class is locked in an unending constitutional wrangle about the details of devolution”, and if not that, then on the complexities of the Barnett Formula.

Surely, it doesn’t have to be like this. It was mostly the sons of Scotland that fashioned the British Empire. Famous Scotsmen like Andrew Carnegie who built huge industrial empires, and Adam Smith who provided the philosophical underpinnings of our modern industrialised society.  Where has that mercantile, entrepreneurial, and intellectual spirit gone? Policy Exchange’s report The Devolution Distraction that ‘calls for a new approach to politics in Scotland, based on honesty in measuring performance, radicalism in policy making and a generational truce on the constitutional issue’.

Scottish politicians must be careful that the famous grumpiness of Andy Murray doesn’t become the image that non-Scottish people have of Scotland in general.